Friday, February 26, 2010

Love Thyself as Thy Neighbor* - Reflections on a bi-coastal practice

Love what you do
One of the gifts of teaching the Feldenkrais Method is that I am constantly confronted with needing to practice what I preach. Feldenkrais said, "It is not what you do but how you do it." It is not what I teach, but how I teach. It is not what I create, but how I create. It is not who I connect with, but how I connect.

Organizing a workshop
I recently organized a workshop in Berkeley, CA from my new home in Boston. Envisioning, articulating, creating, connecting, preparing. In all the stages of the process I was confronted with myself. HOW do I go about doing this? Do I dive into stress, increase my willpower and effort? How can I make this process more like Awareness Through Movement (ATM)? Can I trust that if I stay in this moment and do this action with attention and care, that it will connect to other actions that will bring me closer to something bigger? Like in ATM, it is often a surprise where I am led. I usually don't know in the beginning where I am headed.

Celebrate Self Love:
This was the title of the Valentine's Day workshop. I sent out the invitation. I wrote: "Give yourself the gift of your attention..." As the calls and emails came with people registering for the workshop, it got closer to becoming a reality. This is part of the magic of it, the unfolding. It felt like another example of this work choosing me, rather than me choosing this work. And another opportunity to practice what I preach. I needed to give myself the gift of my attention.

Preparing as Practice

In order to teach the lessons, I need to feel the lessons. In order to contact others, I need to contact myself. And how much it helped me! There was one particular day where stress came - I was worried about someone else and wishing I could do something to change a situation, but there was nothing I could do. I had a window of time to do some more preparing for the workshop. In the beginning, I checked in with myself: I felt anxious and frustrated. There was a fluttering sensation in my chest. My attention was frazzled. The lesson was a chance for me to go inward. To slow down. To feel. To be with myself, my sensation. To breathe. To make distinctions, connections, to let go, discover. Afterwards, I was completely different. I felt calm, present, in my body, on the ground. I felt more accepting. I could not control the situation. I could care and be compassionate, but first I needed that for myself.

Movement as Metaphor
The workshop: Fifteen people registered and eleven attended. Some former students, some new. The quality of the attention in the room deepened as we went. It is not about sliding your hand down your leg, but how you slide your hand down your leg. How much of your hand contacts the surface or your leg? Just the fingers? The whole palm? Do you like what you feel? How do you attend to yourself? What moves? Your shoulders, spine, ribs, pelvis? What doesn't move? Are you breathing? Are you holding your breath? Awareness Through Movement offers the opportunity to attend to yourself in a new way. Is it a pleasure or a torture? Are you curious or are you simply repeating what someone is telling you to do?

Awareness in Learning

It doesn’t matter what lessons, it’s how you do the lessons. In The Elusive Obvious, Feldenkrais wrote “Becoming aware is the significant part of your learning, and it is not at all important which movement is used for the lesson; even so we might just as well choose one which is also useful in life.” The lessons I chose for the workshop were both functionally useful in life (for walking, turning, bending and wherever else the students will make use of them…) and they also included an element of contacting yourself directly with your own hands, a gesture of self-love, self-care. But what is most important is that through moving with a new awareness and attention you find a new “HOW”: You learn to move under the radar of your habits and find new connections. You awaken places in yourself that were sleeping. At the end of the lessons students felt taller, lighter, more grounded, more whole. This is movement in the direction towards what Feldenkrais calls the “Potent Self”, where more of you is available, ready for spontaneous action in any direction.

The Cycle of Love
I noticed after the workshop, I felt that I had grown bigger. In the space of those few hours, putting so much energy into holding the space for everyone to have their own unique process, coupled with the reality of having organized this from the opposite coast, it felt like I had given birth. I needed to move in the other direction- back inside myself in order to be present to others again. I acknowledged my thoughts/ concerns/ reflections and then set them aside and went back into my body, my self. That is the dance. I can be here for you when I am here for myself. When I slow down and listen, life gets bigger, fuller. There are more possibilities. There is more room for growth, more space for love. In every direction.

*The title of the introduction to The Potent Self by Moshe Feldenkrais.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feet and Hands